I’ve talked a lot about search engine marketing (both paid and organic) on this blog (check out all of my posts on this topic here , here and here) and yet, as I continue to attend conferences, I don’t hear anything about the giant opportunity search could be for every pharma and healthcare company. This giant opportunity exists because very few of the industry’s websites are actually optimized for search. What this means is that they aren’t owing, or even showing up, for critical keywords. Here’s how Lipitor, the top-selling drug in the world, does for search. If you want all the details on this table, click here. The numbers represent what position Lipitor.com shows up in search results for various keywords. A dash indicates that Lipitor.com is not in the top 500 results for the keyword (note: this was conducted in May).
Not a pretty picture. Okay, so forget about Google. Maybe there’s a reason why companies aren’t worried about Google. Of course, 80% of all online sessions begin with search and Google has a 63.7% share of all searches. That means that just over 50% of the time when someone starts an online session, they open to Google and search. In other words, if your site isn’t showing up on Google search, it may as well not exist. But, I digress.
Okay, so you’re not focused on doing anything with Google. Maybe it’s too much work, maybe you’re not sure what to do (nor are your agencies). Okay, then, let’s forget about Google and move to number two. What’s the number two search engine in the world?
Here’s how the conversation usually goes when I ask this question:
“What do you mean, ‘No’?”
“Then it’s got to be that new one…Bing…”
“What? That’s really an old one?”
“I have no idea then.”
The answer, of course, is YouTube. YouTube is the number two search engine in the world. In fact, this has been the case since October 2008. Yes, a year ago.
So, let’s talk about YouTube instead. If you can’t win with Google (or don’t want to for some reason), then let’s try to win with YouTube.
When you search for “diabetes” on Google, the first three results are the American Diabetes Association website, WebMD’s section on diabetes, and GSK-owned, Diabetes.com. All of these are credible sources with good, quality information. If you went to any of these, you’d find good information that would be a great start to your research. On YouTube, it’s quite another story.
Assignment #1: Go to YouTube and search for “diabetes.” (or just click here) What do you find?
The first three results are a general diabetes overview from AnswersTV.com (whoever they are), the Wilford Brimley Dance Remix, and third is another overview video from unknown source.
This is what we’re dealing with. This is what patients see if they search for “diabetes” on YouTube. One other thing to note, there are 31,600 results for “diabetes” in YouTube. That’s a lot of competition, right? Not really…there are 77 million results for “diabetes” on Google. So, instead of fighting your way to the top of 77 million listings, you only have to beat 31 thousand. Of course, the volume of searches for “diabetes” on Google is going to be much higher than on YouTube, but perhaps if you capture a greater share of clicks because of a higher ranking in search, then maybe you could end up with the same number as if you showed up many pages deep in the Google search results.
Before getting into how to move up in the rankings on YouTube, I’ll deal with one other question I get. How many people are really searching for health related topics on YouTube. Unfortunately, this isn’t a simple number I can provide, as search volume is a bit harder to find for YouTube compared to Google. It’s probably safe to say that YouTube has far fewer searches for healthcare related information than Google (as a percentage of all searches and total volume of searches). However, it appears that reference-type searches on video sites, including YouTube, might be increasing. From a recent New York Times article: Saranga Chandratillake said that “on Blinkx, some of the fastest-growing searches were in reference categories like money, travel, health and food. More traditional categories, like entertainment, sports and user-generated content, remain more popular but are growing at a slower rate, suggesting a shift.” What’s this all mean? Well, I think it’s safe to say that a YouTube search strategy isn’t going to change the fortunes of your brand dramatically, but it could have an impact.
But if it doesn’t have a huge impact today, it could tomorrow. Alex Iskold, from Adaptive Blue, wrote a great article about how video might just be the future of search in his article “Is YouTube the Next Google?‘ One of the points from his article that struck me: “Kids no longer learn about the world by reading text. Like the television generation, they are absorbing the world through their visual sense. But there is a big difference. Television was programmed and inflexible. YouTube is completely micro-chunked and on demand. Kids can search for what they need anytime. This is different, and powerful.” The takeaway for you as a marketer? If YouTube isn’t the way people find information about your brands now, it will be in the future.
So, you’re convinced by now that YouTube optimization is the way to go. How do you do it? It seems the traditional ranking factors for Google don’t necessarily apply to YouTube. Of course, no one knows for sure which factors are most important, as that would make it really easy to cheat, but experts generally agree that the following are most important (in order): “keyword focused anchor text from external links, external link popularity (quantity/quality of external links), diversity of link sources (links from many unique root domains), keyword use anywhere in the title tag, and trustworthiness of the domain based on link distance from trusted.” So, what are the top five factors for YouTube?
This is a bit harder to come by mainly because there isn’t an entire industry built around optimizing for YouTube like there is for Google. So, therefore, there isn’t a strong consensus. So, let’s go to the source: Google (owners of YouTube). Here’s what they have to say about optimizing your videos so they show up towards the top of the results for your targeted keywords. Ironically, the video is not on YouTube, so here’s the link to the video and full post with quotes.
The first tip: have good videos. Not surprising. The exact quote: “Online marketers typically are looking to get strong viewership on Youtube, the number one tip I’d give them, first, before optimizing, is to make sure that their content is something that users will engage with. … Make sure that your creative is good, that when users see it, they are prone to respond to it either through rating it writing comments, or even a better scenario, sharing it with other users. Once you have done that, you do want to figure out ways to optimize your videos for organic discovery.” So, for everyone out there who has disabled comments and ratings because you’re worried that people will think your videos stink, your problem isn’t with YouTube’s functionality…it’s your videos. I’ll assume you disabled ratings because you know you won’t do really well. So, don’t read any further until you actually have a good video to share on YouTube (and hopefully more than one).
Okay, the next factors you should work on, according to Google, are (again, from the post referenced above):
- Make sure your title, descriptions, and tags are clear and concise, describe the video
- When tagging your video, make sure to use tags that are consistent with one another. “we do have mechanisms in place to detect spamming behaviors”
- Community is very important for discovery
Well, those first two are really simple. The last one is a bit more challenging. It appears that the community aspects of YouTube also influence the search rankings. “Community aspects?,” you ask. Yes, they factor into the weighting as well.
There’s a lot to consider and here’s the list (from here):
- playlist additions
- age of video
- channel views
- inbound links (links from outside of YouTube pointing to your videos).
Well, that’s quite a long list. But there is some good news. It’s not all about views, which is what people always worry about. So, you control a few factors right away by having good titles, descriptions, and tags. Beyond these three and views, there are nine other factors that COULD influence the search results. Again, “could” because no one knows for sure which factors are most important. It’s safe to say that a combination of these factors, with some sort of weighting, is what determines ranking.
This is a lot to consider, so let me break it down a bit. There are basically four groups of factors here: “Within your control,” “Public opinion,” “Sharing,” and “Channel-related.” Here’s what each of these are and the tips on how you can use them:
Within your control
I’ve already mentioned, and so did Google, how the most important factors for ranking are actually within your control. Here are your tips:
1. Create great videos — If your videos are boring and people don’t engage with them, you aren’t going to EVER rank very high. As marketers, we’ve all seen good and bad videos. You know what “good” looks like, so be objective and decide if your videos meet this threshold.
2. Get your listing right — When you submit a new video, you get to write the title, description, and tags for it. Make sure they’re good. If you’re targeting certain keywords, like “diabetes,” then you probably want to ensure that “diabetes” is in the title and description (probably a couple of times), as well as the tags. If you can’t do this part right, then don’t bother with the rest. The age of your video is also a factor, so don’t wait too long to get your videos out there.
Ah, public opinion. It can be fickle. It’s tough. It’s unrelenting. But, it can also be your brand’s biggest advocate. What the public thinks about your video has a lot to do with where it shows up in the search rankings. The tips:
3. It all starts with views — You can get comments or “favorited,” or added to playlists or anything else if no one ever sees your video. So, what do you do? Your video probably isn’t going to be “viral” and seen by millions, as people spread it all over the world. Get used to that. So, that means that you probably have to drive traffic yourself. How? The answer isn’t directing people to YouTube (though you can do that also). The answer is embedding. Up to 44% of people what YouTube videos at least some of the time as embeds and not on YouTube.com. If you watched the Wilford Brimley video above, you watched an embed. That counts as a view even though you didn’t go to YouTube. The point? Don’t just put your videos on your YouTube channel, put them on your websites as well as embeds and drive views that way.
4. Simple engagement counts a lot –This set of factors are mostly out of your control. It includes: ratings, playlist additions, and flagging. Each of these factors all point to whether or not people liked your video. They are all actions that require a bit more engagement versus simply watching the video, but not too much. Here’s what you can do: ask for people to do these things. For some, rating videos is second nature. For others, they don’t think even think about doing it. So, get these people to do it for you. Encourage them to simply click and give you a rating or add it to their favorites. Tell them exactly what to do.
5. You can’t avoid comments — This one’s a bit contentious in pharma and healthcare. Most videos from the industry have comments disabled (many have ratings disabled as well). There are good reasons for this. You don’t want people posting adverse events as comments of course, so disabling comments takes care of this. Rohit Bhargava has another good reason to not allow comments: “[because of] the low quality of YouTube comments (very few are actually substantial or add meaningful observations) as well the fact that you can still post comments anonymously, there is a high risk factor in terms of people saying meaningless things and your team having to waste valuable time to moderate. If you want to create dialogue, bring the video onto your own site and invite comments there instead.” I really can’t argue with that. But people want to leave comments and it seems to count in the rankings. If your goal is to increase your rankings, then getting lots of comments (even crappy ones) will help your rankings. I agree that having a meaningful dialogue about your video probably isn’t going to happen on YouTube, so take Rohit’s advice and embed the video in your site and have the discussion there. But, if you’re going to do that, then does it really matter what the comments are on YouTube since most people will see it as an embed?
6. Links always count — One of the biggest factors for Google search rankings is inbound links. If quality sites are linking to your site, it helps your rankings. Same rules with YouTube videos. Of course, you can embed an entire video, so simply linking to a video is more rare, but it does happen. Question: do you have links to your YouTube videos on any of your websites? No?!? Why not? It’s a simple thing to do that will dramatically impact your rankings. Most pharma and healthcare sites carry a lot of credibility with Google (and therefore YouTube), so you should use their credibility to increase the rankings of your videos as well by linking to them from your brand and corporate sites. A simple fix with a big impact.
It’s the biggest indicator of an engaged audience because it takes the most amount of effort.
7. Make sharing simple — Embeds and “shares” are the two factors that require people to do a little work. For an embed, they have to add it to, say, a blog post (which required work) or write something about your video to explain why they are embedding it. That takes effort, so this might be a very important factor. Therefore, you should encourage people to share your video via embeds. This will increase your ranking in and of itself and also by increasing the number of views. Sharing requires some work because you have to figure out where to share it and some pithy quote to go with it. Make it simple to share the video and ask people to do it. It’s amazing what people will do if asked (don’t forget to say “please”). Simply asking reminds people to share and might actually get them to do it.
No video stands alone. The highest ranked videos seem to come from people who have many other videos or are a part of a YouTube channel.
8. Create an empire – Just uploading one video and hoping people find it isn’t a winning strategy no matter how good the video is. Instead, you should make it part of a channel. Good news for pharma and healthcare: you probably already have a channel (here’s a list from the Pharma and Healthcare Social Media Wiki). Subscribers to this channel and views of the channel both seem to count towards your ranking. Again, encourage people to subscribe whenever you can. It doesn’t take much (just a single click), so it’s a low engagement effort you’re asking of your viewers.
That’s it. Quite a lot to consider, but really simple steps. If you have existing videos, go back and see if you’re doing all of this. Touch up your descriptions and tags, embed the videos, ask people to use the ratings, link to your videos from other sites, and share them (you’re on Twitter, right?). And track your progress…try to do all of these things with one video. See where you show up in the search results related to that video now and, say, a month after your fixes. Changing the rankings takes time, so it might be a while for the full effect, but when it comes to YouTube, you should see results pretty quickly. If you like what you see, then take on the rest of your video collection.
If you can’t own Google, at least own YouTube.